Against the Current, No 6, January/
Letter from the Editors
— The Editors
Meatpacker Unionism Gutted
— Roger Horowitz
Social Struggles & the NDP
— interview with Judy Rebick
Women in Eastern Europe: Liberation or Patriarchy?
— Jacqueline Heinen
- Stop Soviet Repression of the Chukaev Family!
Social Democracy Today
— Perry Anderson
Inside the New Automation
— Art Myatt
Computer Innards for Beginners
— Art Myatt
A Perspective for Socialists
— Alex Callinicos
In Defense of Critical Leninism
— Alan Wald
Random Shots: Onassis's Road to Riches
— R.F. Kampfer
- Letters to the Editors
Cosmetics and Revolution
— Nora R. Wainer
The Politics of AIDS
— Peter Drucker
Ornette Confronts "Technology"
— Tony Smith
Two Movies on Lesbian Love
— Ann Menasche
- In Memoriam
Joseph S. Giganti, 1905-1986
— The Editors
“We know perfectly well that nobody is going to liberate us from diapers or dishes, any more than from standing in those long lines and then dragging the groceries home. Besides, it’s normal.”
“Say what you want about liberation, but the man’s the breadwinner and the woman takes care of the home.”
THE RAMBLINGS of our grandmothers? Not at all. The first statement figures prominently in a 1983 article in Rabotnitsa, one of the two main women’s magazines in the Soviet Union. The second appeared in the March 8, 1981, International Women’s Day editorial of Lacznosc, the official journal of the Polish trade unions.
These very same publications are quick to sing the praises of exemplary women workers, the pioneers who unhesitatingly tackle “men’s work” while remaining perfect housewives. Only five lines earlier the Polish editorial stated: “We know what we have to do: we want to work outside the home because we are not resigned to our role in the family and all the housework. We are not going to allow ourselves to be confined to the kitchen or simply taking care of children.”
“Work like a man, and also like a woman”-so goes the saying. And that pretty well sums up the very contradictory situation in which women find themselves in the Eastern European countries of “real socialism.”
Since the Second World War women have made very real progress in education, job opportunities, and participation in the economic and social life. For the last twenty years in all the Eastern European countries except Romania, women have comprised more than 40% of the workforce. With two narrow exceptions, this percentage topped 45 % by the beginning of the 1980s, reaching more than 50% in the USSR and East Germany.
Yet, in spite of their longer-standing participation in full-time work for wages, women in Eastern Europe remain oppressed-and in many of the same ways as women in the West: sex-segregated occupations, lower average wages, male sexual violence, unequal division of labor within the family, primary identification of feminity with motherhood, exclusion of women from powerful economic and political positions, etc.
The experience of women in Eastern Europe dramatically demonstrates that integrating women into the workforce is only a necessary but not a sufficient condition for women’s emancipation. As feminists have argued for some time now, this integration must be accompanied by a social and political process that leads to changes in women’s situation in all areas, not just work outside the home. These processes challenge traditional relations between men and women in the family and personal life, restructure how society cares for children and incorporates men fully into that realm, legitimize lesbian and gay sexuality and restore to women control over our reproductive capacity.
Such a challenge to male domination can only be the expression of the self-organization of women. But the entry of women into wage work has, of course, not been determined by the demands and needs of women themselves. Nor has it even been shaped by the political organization of the masses of women.
Eastern European women spend a good part of their lives in full-time wage work because their governments have needed their productive labor. To draw women fully into wage labor requires that they be given education and training and at least some social support to relieve the burdens of domestic work and childcare. On the other hand, these supports are not only expensive, they also threaten to undermine the traditional nuclear family and power relations within it.
This contradiction between the need to use women’s labor in production on the one hand, and the interest in maintaining the traditional family on the other hand, has very much shaped the policies of the Eastern European states.
Daily Life: Conditions Vary
It must be stressed that economic and social situations vary enormously from one country to the other. It is not possible to compare conditions of life for women in Czechoslovakia with those of Romanian women, for example.
Czechs live in a country where the stores are relatively well-stocked and where decent quality household appliances are available. Romanian women confront unprecedented scarcity, from rationing of all basic foodstuffs (bread, milk, sugar) to daily shutoffs of water, gas and electricity. No one takes the elevator anymore for fear of getting stuck. Picture the scene when you live in a high rise and have grocery bags and a small kid to lug upstairs.
It is forbidden in Romania to heat apartments above 14 degrees centigrade (57 degrees F.) during a cold snap, TV programming is down to two and a half hours a day, etc. All this because the government has decreed it necessary to conserve energy.
These difficulties affect the entire population, but women are the main target, as shown by the discourses on model citizens in the pages of the party journal: “When push comes to shove, women can just as easily do the wash in the bathtub.” So, we can give up washing machines. And brooms? “Didn’t we use brooms for hundreds of years before we got vacuum cleaners?”(1)
Social services cannot be readily compared, either. Less than 10 % of Polish women have their laundry done outside the home, given the high cost and the very low quality of the service, while in East Germany reliance on laundries is quite common. Similarly, the percentage of main meals (hot) served in communal canteens in Poland is barely 10%, while it is 70-80% in East Germany. This makes a huge difference for women when they come home in the evening after q day’s work.
Finally, while there is room for 65% of East German children under 3 years old in nurseries and 90 % of children from three to six in childcare facilities, these figures are 4% and 45% respectively in Poland. Thus, it is practically impossible for Polish working women to place their small children in nurseries. The few places available are generally given to privileged women who are “recommended” and not to those who need it most-the very large number of women who work in shifts or at night.
Housing conditions also vary greatly from country to country. In the Soviet provinces, it is still common for an entire family to be living in a single room. By contrast, in Poland, while the housing shortage is acute the waiting list for an apartment incredible (a “young” couple can remain on the list 15 to 20 years, if they are forced to go through official channels), in general the space allocation per person is much more livable.
Now, As Before, the Double Day of Work
Despite these profound differences, what is striking in all these countries is the maintenance of patriarchal relations within the nuclear family, the persistence of ancient notions about women’s role, the immutable domination of the man within the couple.
Household tasks and the education of children continue to be women’s exclusive province. The number of hours they devote daily to these tasks has diminished only imperceptibly-4-5 hours in 1970 and just a bit less in 1985, if we accept the most recent statistics. As for men:
“He’ll make a half-hearted effort out of kindness. He’ll take care of the baby. He’ll help, blinded by his own generosity.”(2)
Although women want to work and are not about to return to the home, most still seem to define themselves first as wives and mothers. In Poland, three quarters of all women interviewed in several studies said they were convinced that their fundamental task was the education of their children. And why be surprised at the tenacity of such ideas, when we know that in 1980 Soviet elementary schools trained girls in cooking and housework while boys took up wood and metalworking?
This internalization of their role as mothers and acceptance of traditional marriage as the natural order to things seems to be as true of women in East Germany even though their domestic load seems to be much lighter than that of women elsewhere.
This comes across clearly in the remarks of East German women who were asked to “reveal themselves” in free-flowing interviews.
“Sure, my parents were progressives. But the education we kids had was horrible. The girls had to do everything and the boys led the good life,” said a young woman of 24.
“I have to do it all: advisory committees, the union, take care of the old people at home, all the administrative tasks” said another woman who is a little older, mother of a child. But she nevertheless showed a lot of tolerance toward her husband when she said, “What good does it do a woman to liberate herself against her own partner? … If it breaks up the relationship, you just have to start another one, because relationships are inevitable. And the problems will start again with the new one.”(3)
To understand this contradictory world view which incorporates both aspirations for political and economic equality and acceptance of traditional gender identities, we have to consider the material barriers women face both individually and collectively which prevent the emergence of alternative attitudes and aspirations. Foremost among these difficulties is a consistent state policy which assumes that women and not men will be responsible for children.
Wages for Housework
Immediately after World War II, the regimes in Eastern Europe emphasized the importance of women’s paid labor, because women’s work was needed to rebuild the economies. But official rhetoric spoke in the Leninist language which stressed the connection between paid labor and women’s elevation to full and equal participation with men in all social realms.
The state’s obligation to free women from domesticity and childrearing was accepted, even if only as a goal that could not be immediately implemented. But from the mid-’60s official policy on the family shifted substantially. Thus turnabout was accomplished through a variety of measures and rationales, but it had the universal effect of breaking a process of development which tended to afford women increasing social and economic independence.
Beginning in 1965, in East Germany, domestic chores were no longer referred to as an obstacle to professional activity and training for women. The new approach resurrected the virtuous role of the family in the education of children.
Various measures then followed. Some were progressive, such as the extension of maternity leave from 12 to 20 weeks. Others, no matter how generous they may have seemed to women at the time, had a discriminatory impact. For they perpetuated the differential treatment of men and women as working parents, assuming that women and not men were primarily responsible for children.
These measures included giving more vacation time to women with several children, providing single mothers with one vacation day a month to do their housework, and creating part-time work for “women who, because of their special family responsibilities, find it impossible to work full time.”(4)
Official reports confirm that few women take advantage of the opportunity to work part-time, since few can afford the cut in pay. But some specialists in East Germany estimate that 25-30% of working women have jobs in which the work week is shorter by six hours.
Of course, this does not reduce women’s total workload. All studies in East and West Europe show that when women put in fewer hours in paid work, their husbands generally end up doing less around the house than they did before. Moreover, reduced hours almost always bring women a diminished status and a series of obstacles on the professional level.
In 1967 Hungary introduced the principle of paid leave to allow women to stay home with children, establishing a kind of “maternity wage,” amounting to nearly one-half of their regular pay. Four years later, Czechoslovakia launched a similar program of monthly maternity allowances for the child’s first year. In Poland, beginning in 1969, unpaid leaves could be taken for one-later three-years. Shortly thereafter, it was proposed that these be paid leaves, and that has been the case since 1981. Officially they are called “parental” leaves, but everyone refers to them as maternity leaves, and not accidentally. In all three countries, three-quarters of the women have access to these options.
In the Soviet Union, the story is a little more complex. Already as far back as 1934 the new Family Code made a sharp retreat from the gains of the 1917 revolution. It banned abortion (re-legalized in 1955), condemned the liberated marriage system and placed obstacles in the way of divorce.
But the war interrupted Stalin’s plans to glorify the role of the woman-mother. First, during the war, women’s labor was needed to replace that of the men at the front. After the war, their labor was necessary to reconstruct the war-torn economy. Stalin had to wait until 1949 to present a gold metal for meritorious “fertility.”
Proposals to introduce part-time work appeared in the sixties, but only recently has the idea gained any real sup port. And the Soviets have also introduced a paid maternity leave of one year to eighteen months for mothers of young children.
Women: We’re Doubly Exploited
Wage and job discrimination should come as no surprise in light of these policies and the notions about women and domesticity that lie behind them. Women are concentrated in services and “helping professions,” clerical work and traditionally female industries (textile, garment, electrical assembly). There are some differences with the West. The percentage of women doctors is much higher in Eastern Europe. But the profession has lost all its attraction for men, because the pay is so low. In the Soviet Union, women do heavy manual labor in areas like construction, taking jobs that men wouldn’t hear of doing. Said a woman postal worker in Petrozadovsk:
“Here the proletariat is no longer an exploited class, but women are, and doubly so. You can’t see it in the laws, but it exists in reality. According to the rules, we don’t have the right to lift more than twenty kilos. So if the packages weigh less than that, around here they decide-god knows why-that we can lift an incalculable number of them. Here the norm is 300 packages per person per day, but around holidays it can go up to 500 packages. Each one weights from seven to ten kilos. So each woman has to lift and carry more than 2,000 kilos a day, and between four and five tons on holidays. Around May 1 or November 7 (celebration of the glorious socialist revolution) we’re breaking weight-lifting records here. And we don’t even get all the glory the professional weight-lifters get.”(5)
In addition, each woman has to walk 2-5 kilometers a day with these packages, equivalent to dragging between 350-1,000 kilos a day. [1 kilo equals 2.2 pounds.] Not to speak of the fact that “women work nights in this district and the shifts are 12 hour stretches. It’s about like working in the coalmines and salt mines before the revolution.”(6)
But even the jobs that skilled women have do not at all correspond to their level of training. Girls are almost always more numerous than boys in secondary schools, and often outnumber them in higher education as well. Far more females attend technical schools and receive technical training in the East than in the West.
In East Germany, where special efforts were made to achieve this, young girls made up three-fourths of the students in technical secondary schools in 1983. In Poland in 1984, 23% of the student body in advanced technical schools were women. This figure rarely exceeds 10% in the West.
Still, women hold a very small number of administrative positions in the technical areas and women hold an insignificant proportion of all factory manager positions, even in sectors where women comprise the bulk of the workforce. Only a relative handful of women get prestigious academic appointments.
As usual, the traditional ideology is a formidable obstacle. Female leadership is distrusted. “She won’t be able to do the job … and what if she decides to have a baby?” The facts-that most skilled women do not quit work after having a child, or that men have high rates of alcoholism which can also take them out of employment-don’t shake these strongly-held prejudices (and the male privilege they justify).
It flows logically that salary differentials between men and women are on the order of 30%. This is a greater gap even than in the northern countries of Western Europe (Denmark, Sweden, etc.), where the level of female employment is close to that in Eastern Europe, but where the percentage of women working part-time is often quite high. This fact is peculiar, since we might expect the gap between men and women to be greater, not smaller than in Eastern Europe, where most women work full-time.
Maintaining, indeed enforcing, women’s primary responsibility for childcare and household labor, the family policy of the Eastern European regimes has not only solidified women’s subordinate position in the realm of paid labor. These measures express the official renunciation of any policy aimed at achieving real equality be tween men and women. The break with the Marxist and Leninist tradition to which these regimes referred at the moment of their installation could not be more clear.
Certainly, Marx and Engels-and Lenin following them-stressed women’s exploitation more than their specific oppression, convinced that the massive entry of women into paid labor, appearing to have begun in the capitalist countries from the middle of the 19th century, would lead to the break-up and then the disappearance of the traditional family. In so doing, they underestimated the capacity of the ruling class to intervene in order to regulate the employment of women and children, reinforcing the family so as to preserve the capitalist system itself. They equally underestimated the obstacles to be overcome–beyond the economic and social revolution–in order to change gender ideology and gender identities within the oppressed class. Insight on this score has been the contribution of the feminist movement.
However, the bureaucracies of the Eastern bloc have never been encumbered with these sorts of considerations. Indeed, the policies followed over the last twenty years represent a definitive step backward from the policies they had themselves originally developed in the realm of paid work for women.
Bureaucracy’s Political Stake in the Family
After all the enthusiasm that prevailed just after World War II, all the sonnets to the liberation of women, and the omnipresent posters with women driving tractors and brandishing soldering guns, how can this retreat be explained?
The explanation unquestionably lies in the changes these regimes have undergone. Although Stalinist at the outset, they still represented a radical break with the class system and ideology of the bourgeoisie in power before the war. After abandoning any notion of basing themselves on the will of the masses, for the last forty years they have been progressively mired in a process of bureaucratization, crystallization of a privileged layer, not to speak of a fossilization that defies imagination. (Ceaucescu’s Romania is a case in point.)
Despite differences in policies and implementation, none have any doubt that the family constitutes a key element in the stability of their system. There are several reasons for this. Some are ec9nomic. These self-styled “socialist” societies are characterized by a permanent inability to provide the social infrastructure necessary to collectivize the reproduction of the work force-to establish alternatives to the privatized nuclear family as a means for nurturing adults and children, caring for the ill, etc.
However many speeches are given on needed reforms, the priorities always end up skewed to heavy industry. This is true even in East Germany, where independent women’s pacifist groups have continuously demanded that subsidies given to the army be given instead to collective social services.
Above all, the bureaucracy has a stake in the family for political reasons. The family makes it possible to channel individual aspirations into a private framework. The model of emotional and social relationships put forward in Eastern Europe is no better than in Western Europe.
Thus exclusive orientation toward meeting basic human needs in private life has its origins in the profoundly conservative character of the bureaucracy, which must prevent all collective expression and organization around social needs in order to preserve the power it has usurped.
Any sharing of ideas threatens the basis of its domination. But that’s exactly where a genuine policy of collective provision of life necessities would inevitably lead.
The paternalism that permeates every pore of these societies is acutely evident around the question of women’s control over reproduction. All of these regimes have attempted to make motherhood compulsory for women. Contraceptives are not easily available and of very poor quality. Abortion is difficult to obtain.
Romania is a case by itself. Since 1966 women do not have the right to abortion unless pregnancy poses a serious threat to their health or if they already have five children. In addition, since 1984 they have been forced to submit to surprise gynecological examinations (especially in factories where women are a majority of the workforce), in order to detect possible pregnancies and force the women to give birth under pain of legal penalty.
In this country, where the pill and other contraception is banned, one doctor was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having tried to save the life of a woman who was dying from a self-induced abortion. And yet Romanian women still reject having children. For can we really ask infants to take the oath that is floating around as an underground joke in Romania: “I, the baby, place my hand on my navel and swear that I can grow up without needing anything to eat or using up any heat.’(7)
In other countries attempts to abolish legal abortion have met with very consistent resistance from women. The Soviet Union was forced to relegalize abortion in 1955 because the law was impossible to enforce-abortions were widely available, thanks to women doctors and midwives. Still, while women have been able to protect their right to abortion in principle, in practice things are more difficult.
While abortion is legal in the first trimester in the other East European countries, it is subject to a variety of restrictions. In some countries, the decision is in the hands of a commission of “experts.” This is the case in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. And it is sometimes surrounded by humiliating procedures, as in the Soviet Union.
While notions about the “right to life of the fetus” aren’t circulating in Eastern Europe, other arguments are put forward to try to discourage women from having abortions, such as possible physical after-effects or the risk of sterility. While no abortion is totally harmless, particularly on the psychological level, experience has shown that if done early enough and under proper conditions there is minimal risk.
A woman from Arkhangelsk described the conditions awaiting those women in her city who plough ahead after going before the “socio-legal bureau” charged with examining such cases:
When they arrive at what is called “the meat grinder,” the women “line up outside the operating room. Two to six women are operated on at a time in the same room. Things are arranged in such a way that each woman can see what’s going on across from her. The face distorted by suffering, the bloody mess pulled out of the woman’s insides. . .Without anesthesia, the woman is in terrible pain The next day she’s sent home without any regard to the state she’s in, which leaves a lot to be desired.”(8)
For countries that pride themselves on the quality of their preventive medical care, this state of affairs is rather extraordinary. Without access to contraceptives and without social support for using them, women have been forced to rely primarily on abortion as a form of birth control. The regimes would have denied them even that had they been able to do so. Grudgingly allowing abortion, state policy seems to be aimed deliberately at penalizing women for trying to limit their childbearing.
Sexual Taboos/Violence and Pornography
The moralism and prudery imposed by the dominant ideology reaches a fever pitch around anything having to do with sexuality. Witness the banning of homosexuality in the Soviet Union and Romania, where this “crime” is punishable by up to five years in prison.
In the other countries, the law is less severe, but hysteria regularly seizes the media on this subject, as seen recently in the debates around AIDS-whether homosexuality, a disease of bourgeois decadence, could actually exist in a socialist country, whether AIDS cases had or had not been discovered, etc.
All this hypocrisy inevitably creates a flourishing black market for pornography, like the one in Hungary. Striptease shows and prostitutes are winked at in the big hotels, the prostitutes being more or less on the state payroll and often serving as informants, as in Poland.
To wish its readers a Merry Christmas in 1981, the official organ of the Communist Party of Hungary printed pictures of nude women, chorus lines, etc. on the cover of all its editions, accompanied by a few gag lines to inspire holiday cheer.
This moralism has as its corollary the phenomenon of violence within the family. Cases of battered women are particularly numerous (also rapes, which are rarely talked about). These statistics rise in tandem with the rate of alcoholism. This is true in the Soviet Union and elsewhere.
“In East Germany violence against women remains a mass social phenomenon,”(9) affirm East German oppositionists. The divorce rate is extremely high in all these countries. In two-thirds to three-quarters of the cases, it is the woman who files for divorce, very often for reasons linked to violence or alcoholism.
Nevertheless, though the family is an instrument in the hands of the bureaucracy and a battleground that is sometimes tragic, it also represents a domain that partially evades bureaucratic control. It is a relatively independent cell where people can express themselves freely and find at least a minimum of emotional relations, a haven that enables resistance to social relations marked by authoritarianism and interdictions of every sort. It is perceived as a refuge by the majority of people, particularly by women.
This is perfectly understandable, given the hyperrepressive nature of these societies. And we must grasp how this helps shape the way women in Eastern Europe have begun to raise their voices about their problems.
The Women in Russia Almanac
The first women to get together publicly in Eastern Europe toward the end of the 1970s were the women in Leningrad who published the Women in Russia almanac in samizdat [self-publishing] form. This initiative was immediately very popular; the almanac was reproduced in the West in 1980.
“The first socially-offensive journal,” claimed one of its co-editors. The journal compiled an assortment of testimony by women about their daily lives-work, childbirth, the family, prison, the camps, relations with children, as well as poetry.
It was a sensation. Within the democratic opposition, the men discovered that a number of the women who participated fully in the movement side-by-side with them had a lot of other very specific things to say about their oppression. And they were trying to say it in a form and a language that differed from the traditional samizdat.
But this almanac also “impressed” the government, which caught on fast. After a few issues, search warrants began to be issued, followed by arrests, threats of imprisonment for several years, denial of mothers’ rights in regard to their children, induced exile, etc; in a word, the blackmail and violence that is the daily lot of those men and women who dare only to claim the democratic rights inscribed in the constitution.
The repressive forces could not afford to ignore these women who, simply by describing the conditions of their lives, directly or indirectly denounced a government that brooks no opposition. What these women did had a decidedly political dimension, whether or not that had been their objective.
The almanac women were far from having a common orientation. Some, like the agnostic Tatiana Mamonova, though not considering themselves Leninist also did not reject the Leninist tradition. Others, profoundly anti-Marxist and religious, went on to form the “Club Marie” [a reference to the Virgin] after the wave of repression that hit the initiators of the almanac in 1980. It soon became apparent that this group had more sup porters. Its members put forward a religious analysis of women’s liberation, manifesting a reliance on spiritual, religious and humanist values that came as a surprise to Western feminists.
But this phenomenon of religiosity must be understood in light of the revival enjoyed by all branches of Eastern European religions since the end of the 1970s-the Russian Orthodox Church, in Hungary, not to mention Poland.
This revival represents a search for alternative solutions on the part of some oppositional currents which are permeated with profound pessimism and have lost sight of any perspective other than escape into mystical values. In addition, in many cases (Poland, East Germany, Russia) the Church has actively supported the opposition and provided crucial organizational infrastructure.
In face of the corruption and hypocrisy of a bureaucracy which talks about the sacred family but does nothing to challenge the pervasive male alcoholism and violence against women, it should not be surprising that a layer of women who began to radicalize around their specific problems as women were attracted to a religious pacifism that powerfully condemned the aggression of both men and the state. This initial attempt to organize feminists was routed by the KGB through its usual methods and with relative dispatch. However, the group left behind the fact that some women had dared to break the taboos that shroud private life.
From Warsaw to Berlin
The women students who built a feminist group at the University of Warsaw in the fall of 1980 understood the role of the almanac women and were delighted by the support they received from some of them who had been driven into exile. From the outset, these Polish women took a consciously radical approach. They fully identified with the feminist movement in Western Europe.
As activists in the independent union of students created during the heyday of Solidarnosc, they under stood that it was equally important to raise their specific demands and expressed their aspirations in a program of twelve central points on the oppression of women.
Though we in the West all rejoiced at the birth of this new group, it must be said that their influence remained extremely limited, never reaching the women activists in the ranks of Solidarnosc, although they tried. And yet these working-class women were an essential component of the fantastic mass movement that gripped Poland for eighteen months.
Women in Solidarnosc were in the forefront on more than one occasion. One instance was the “hunger march” in Lodz and other cities in the summer of 1981, demonstrations protesting the government policy of trying to starve out the population in order to subvert the movement. Another was the strike of women workers in Zyrardow near Warsaw in the fall of that same year, one of the first actions to take up the idea of the “active strike,” where workers stayed on the job but turned the fruits of production over to the social movement instead of the state.
But the vast majority of these women activists never reached the point of posing their own problems as women. Only 6% of the delegates to the first national convention of the independent trade union were women. On a local level, too, women were not at all given their due in the leadership structures of Solidarnosc.
Protesting this state of affairs, while at the same time continuing to assume the burdens of their dual role, women were torn between the factory, the union, and the home. In addition, the weight of the Catholic Church in Poland and the influence of its reactionary ideas on the role of women, the family, etc. prevented these women activists from embracing some of the truths enunciated by the student group in Warsaw.
or East European women, the road to consciousness about their oppression as women is strewn with traps. But “Women for Peace” in East Germany, in fighting against military service for women, demonstrated that an approach beginning totally within the framework of the general independent pacifist movement in that country could lead to questioning the specific oppression of women.
These women certainly do not consider themselves feminists. “Why make liberation a strictly female theme? Doesn’t everyone in East Germany seek liberation ?”(10) said Barbel Bohle, one of the animators of the group who has spent time in prison for her activities. But later she adds: “Many women come to us because they want to discuss problems they confront as women.”
Significantly, various chapters of “Women for Peace,” while remaining fully a part of the general movement, ended up deciding to meet in women-only meetings, in order to stop men from monopolizing all the speaking and to allowed unfettered discussion of what was on their minds.
‘Many things indicate that a lot of women in our country are dissatisfied,” writes Christa Wolf, a well-known East German novelist, in the preface to Maxie Wander’s book, Guten Morgan, du Schone.
“Women are no longer asking what they are, but who they are. Our society has given women the possibility to do what men do. Predictably, this leads women to ask themselves, but what exactly is it that men do? Is this what I really want?”
- “Scinteia, “November 1, 1983.
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- Women in Russia, 1980, Edition des femmes, 22.
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- Guten Morgen, du Schone, Maxie Wander, Luchterhand, 1985.
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- Laws on work, 1977.
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- Women in Russia, 22.
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- Women in Russia, 22.
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- “Alternative,” new series, number 1, April 1986.
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- Women in Russia, 22.
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- “Gegenstimmen,” number 4, 1981.
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- “Cahiers du Feminisme,” number 27, Winter 1984.
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January-February 1987, ATC 6